Sunday, June 04, 2017

‡ MEgoes2TW - Part 1 ‡

First of all, I'd like to apologize for not updating the details of my trip during UWRF 2015 (you can check the post for Day 1 here and Day 2 here though).

I promise I will definitely continue with the details for Day 3, Day 4, and Day 5.
Also I am working with the draft for details of my Singapore trips.

As for now, for today, for this post, I will write down the details of my latest trip to... TAIWAN!

Since it's only one week since I returned from there, I think my memory is still good enough to remember the details. Hopefully.

P.S.: I am not a travel blogger so do not expect a good writing from me in this post (not as if I'm a good writer when it comes to non travel stuff though, lol).

Let's see what I can do with words, some pictures, and the excitement from the travel!
Oh, it's part 1 because it will be a long post so I decided to make three posts instead of one.







Prologue.

On 28 August 2016, I was at The Manhattan Fish Market - Central Park Mall for lunch with Monica Dewi Putri. During that period, travel fair was held at the mall and she told me about a plan to spend holiday alone.

Destination: Taiwan.

The conversation went on and on and she ended up persuading me to be her travel companion. It was such a dilemma for me as I wanted to save money for my dream destination: Japan.
However it's such a rare chance for me to travel with a good friend (as much as we annoy each other) and, on top of it, a heaven of food! Yes, Taiwan and the famous night markets and food and everything.

We went to Panorama Tours in Central Park and decided the travel date: 20 May until 27 May 2017 with these reasons:
  • 20-21 May are Saturday and Sunday
  • 24 May is my birthday
  • 25 May is a holiday
  • 26 May is her birthday
  • 27 May is Saturday
  • 28 May is Sunday and we could take a rest before workday!

It's IDR 4,295,000 for the round trip with Cathay Pacific.
You'll find the details later.


VISA.

Applying for VISA to Taiwan is not difficult, I might say.
It's my first time applying and I was so worried about everything, not to mention both of us applied for it just two weeks before our departure! (Please do not follow our steps for your own safety)

We applied it via Panorama Tours again for a Single Entry (IDR 750,000 excluding 1% tax).
They will help with the VISA application form and you'll need to provide these requirements:

  1. Original Passport; should be valid for at least 6 months upon arrival.
  2. Old Passport; if any
  3. Visa Photo 4x6, white-colored background
  4. Letter of Guarantee; if you're an employee, request it from your office
  5. Personal bank account statement of the past three months; if you have a KlikBCA account, you can print it by yourself at home!
  6. Copy of Family Card

A normal single entry takes 6-7 workdays so, again, do not wait until two weeks before departure.
We're so good at procrastinating. Seriously.

The VISA was granted 3 days before the departure. Ha!
I was so worried, no kidding.


Itinerary.

We had discussion about where we wanted to go in Taiwan and it's so difficult as we found too many spots to visit. From Taipei to Taichung to Alishan to Kaohsiung to everywhere else.
However as we considered the traveling time and everything, we picked two cities to stay: Taipei and Kaohsiung.

If you are a type of person who loves to create a neat itinerary, I'd recommend Travefy for you!

Easy and neat itinerary with Travefy

We used the online planning web to create the 8-day itinerary, writing down the time and place, including the details for us to note. Travefy also provides the option to convert the itinerary into PDF file or share the link with others!

I also installed the Android app instead of printing the handout as my guide during the trip there. Convenient much? (You can't edit the itinerary yet from mobile app though)

Oh, I'll mention the spots I couldn't visit for your information later! In case you have the chance to visit them. ;)





Day 1. Saturday, 20 May 2017.

We arrived at the airport earlier for dinner and baggage check-in (remember, no power bank in baggage!).
After half an hour waiting at Starbucks and another hour at the boarding room, I finally stepped in the Cathay Pacific aircraft for the 12:05 AM flight! Yes, it's first time for me.

They definitely live up their reputation as an outstanding airline. Even for a passenger of economy class, you'll feel comfortable with the seat, in-flight entertainment (IFE), food and beverages, and the services. Due to the night flight, blanket and pillow were prepared for each passenger.

I tried to catch a sleep but I'm never good with sleeping in vehicles; stiff neck at its worst. However I need to sleep so I woke up once in a while, including when the flight attendant distributed the snack. I finally gathered my consciousness an hour before we arrived at Hong Kong International Airport.

The IFE is updated with the latest entertainment stuffs! At least for me it's updated enough. I watched a comedy movie during the flight, "Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates". A crazy movie. Not the best one but enough to make me stay awake during the flight from Hong Kong to Taiwan.

2 boarding passes for 2 flights

Quick view of Hong Kong International Airport (hopefully I can visit HK in the future!), we moved on to the next aircraft. I got refreshment! Pastry, cookie, and lemon juice. I barely slept as I knew it would not be a long flight.

Excitement filled me when we landed at Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport.
FYI, Taiwan has two international airports: Taoyuan at north and Kaohsiung at south.

First thing first: baggage.
I always wonder why it always takes longer time to pick up baggage at Soekarno-Hatta compared to other international airports. Maybe it's just me.

Afterwards we picked up our 10-day SIM Cards.
Yes, pick up. We already booked for it via Klook here.


Where you pick up the SIM Card. Credit goes to Klook website.

Truth to be told, we were quite confused whether to choose a SIM Card or a Wi-Fi device. Since there were only two of us, we decided to have a card for one. More convenient albeit more expensive.
Just showed our passports and national identity cards (KTP), plug in the SIM Card in phone, and we're ready to be connected by unlimited internet!

It's around IDR 220,000 for a 10-day SIM Card.


Next is getting an electronic transportation pass.
We were given three options and, our bad, we had zero information regarding the differences. The lady at the counter offered us EasyCard as it's the most popular one. Without second thought, we bought the cards for NTD 100 and top-up NTD 400 for the fund.
She told us that if we wanted to reach Taipei Main Station from the airport, it would cost us NTD 160.

Quick tips, if you want to go and stay around Kaohsiung, I'd recommend you to have iPass instead of EasyCard since the latter can only be used for the MRT at Kaohsiung; you can't use it for buses in Kaohsiung and you can't top-up at any Kaohsiung stations.
However EasyCard does offer more if you'll spend time in Taipei. Its availability wins for sure. So if you go to both Kaohsiung and Taipei, get an EasyCard but make sure you have enough fund in the card during your stay in Kaohsiung.


Credit goes to EasyCard official website

Anyway, we're not going to Taipei for our first day.
Instead we took Taipei High Speed Rail (THSR) from Taoyuan to Kaohsiung.


Go, go, go to the train!

THSR is equal to Shinkansen in Japan and it's really helpful for people who need to save traveling time. Does it really different compared to the ordinary train?

Here's the difference.
If you take a train from Taoyuan to Kaohsiung, it will cost you around IDR 260,000 to IDR 330,000 for 5-6 hours trip.
Meanwhile my trip from Taoyuan to Kaohsiung by THSR cost me around IDR 480,000 for 1 hour and 35 minutes trip.
You tell me about the difference in saving time.

I bought the one way ticket at Klook (again) here.
You can check the schedule at THSR official website here to decide your schedule. 

You only need to show the voucher on your phone and passport to the ticket booth, then you'll receive a booklet (?) with the details of your chosen trip: train number, seat number, departure, arrival.
Yes, you'll get that instead of a card to tap on the card reader. To pass the card reader, show the booklet and your passport to the staff and they'll let you go through.

The booklet as the exchange of ticket. Credit goes to kkday website.

In THSR, you're allowed to eat and drink. You'll have enough space for your seat and, don't worry, it's really comfortable and clean. Nothing much I could say about the THSR but it's a really good experience (I wish Indonesia will have this kind of facility in the future).

Arriving at HSR Zuoying Station in Kaohsiung, I got my phone ready to check the train map, installed on my Android phone as Transit TW (you'll find it on PlayStore as Transit Taipei Taiwan NAVITIME here). This one is really helpful if you need to check the route map (Taipei and Kaohsiung).

Now come the part: where did we stay in Kaohsiung?

We rented a place listed in AirBnB; the host is David and you can check his place here.
For 3 nights, it cost us around IDR 1,040,000 (including travel credit using reference link). Yes, that's the cost for 2 persons.

It was raining when we arrived at the nearest MRT station to his place (we communicated with him using WhatsApp after the booking confirmation). After around 5-10 minutes, he met us at the Exit 2 of Cultural Center MRT Station and walked us to the apartment.
The AirBnB title is not an exaggeration; you just need 30 seconds walk from the exit to the apartment! There's also an elevator so we didn't need to exhaust ourselves with the luggage.

Upon arrival, David showed us our (lovely) room, completed with private bathroom and amenities, hair dryer, TV, wardrobe, queen-sized bed, lamp, and mineral water. He also prepared some snacks, fresh fruits, and vegetable juice! He also explained that we're allowed to use the washing machine.

Lovely room, isn't it?
 
Afterwards he told us the best places to visit in Kaohsiung (he prepared the list already!) and, unfortunately, when we asked him about going to Fo Guang Shan, it's unlikely the best timing to go there.

Image of Fo Guang Shan for reference. Credit goes to Pinterest

It's almost 2 PM there and we needed to take a bus to reach Fo Guang Shan. Not to mention the weather was somehow unstable; rainy, sunny, rainy, sunny. He recommended us to visit the newest mall there due to those reasons. Monica and I decided to drop ourselves at two malls today as both are not too far from one another.

However we needed food for lunch first.

We took the MRT and got ourselves amazed at Formosa Boulevard MRT Station as we snapped some pictures of the Dome of Light, the largest glass work in the world. It was designed by Italian artist Narcissus Quagliata.

Beautiful indeed!
With zero information, we walked out from the MRT station, trying to find food. Yet we couldn't find any around at that hour. I wonder if we're just unlucky or we missed any available restaurant there! Thirty minutes or so, we're too hungry to argue, we finally stopped at... 7-11!

Our choice of lunch was cold noodle (NTD 45). Yes, we didn't realize it's cold noodle though. We did wonder why the staff didn't offer to heat the noodle first. I bought a watermelon milk (yes, you didn't read it wrong) and it tasted wonderful (NTD 39)!


There's also a variant for Papaya Milk there!


Long story short, we reached Taroko Park (stop at Caoya MRT Station, Exit 2) and realized it's actually a high end shopping mall; we bought nothing there (considering the Godiva Ice Cream but it's NTD 200 so, no, thank you).
We finally ordered a plate of Omurice at the food court since we're still craving for food. Not bad but it's a little bit overpriced I might say.

I forgot the name of the restaurant but I think it has 'Airport' word within (?)

Officially opened on May 2016, Taroko Park (大魯閣草衙道) is a shopping center completed with F1-level karting circuit licensed by Suzuka, roller-skating rink, softball and baseball ground, and fitness center. You'll also find a Ferris Wheel and a carousel here!


The carousel is behind the name; mostly visited by children and their parents

Two stops away, we took Exit 3 of Kaisyuan MRT Station to Dream Mall (夢時代). Some said there's a shuttle bus to reach the mall but we couldn't find any so we just dragged our feet to the largest shopping mall in East Asia.
Yes, you read it right. Consisted of 11 floors, this mall is famous for the rooftop amusement park. Find the Hello Kitty Ferris Wheel, fondly called Kaohsiung Eye (高雄之眼), and take a cart to the top to see the beautiful view of Kaohsiung city!


Slightly edited using Mirror Lab app. Beautiful city, isn't it?

Oh, Monica is not a big fan of height but I managed to drag her along (she thanked me later for sure). It's not in her agenda but, oh, like one said: we can't let fear determine our future.
Irrelevant quote but I just want to put it here (because I just watched The Lost City of Z yesterday).

We purchased milk tea in Dream Mall (remember, Taiwan and milk tea are heavily related!). Doesn't exist (yet) in Indonesia but I think it's quite good.

Mine is of course the chocolate one!
 
You see, we put one night market for our dinner stop there. One night, one night market. That's how greedy we are.
However, very unfortunate to us, we failed on our first night to visit Kaisyuan Night Market (凱旋觀光夜市), also the Jinzhuan Night Market (金鑽觀光夜市).
No, it's not because we didn't have the time.

Walking for 1 km from Dream Mall, we found what they called as the largest night market area in Taiwan and ended up with disappointment.
There were not many vendors open for business at Kaisyuan. Most of the stalls were closed. We barely had any interest to buy food there.

Jinzhuan? It's closed.
We found the schedule, written specifically that the night market is open on Saturday but it's completely dark. Is it out of business already? Were we just unlucky that night? We don't know.

Feeling too exhausted to walk for another kilometer to the MRT station, we took a bus (and that's when I found out you can't use EasyCard for Kaohsiung bus. HA!). Turned out it's a free one (I can't differentiate it actually; we just followed other passengers).

We returned to the apartment right away and called it a day.
Lunch at 7-11, no dinner, but we're in Taiwan!




That's all for the Part 1!
I'm going to post the second part soon! *fingers-crossed*

Until the next post!

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